My Very Own Italian Summer

By - Monday 3rd December, 2012

You don’t have to go to the Milanese backstreets to get a taste of the Mediterranean

Having recently begun working for an architectural practice within the colourful expanse of the South Croydon café and restaurant district, it was only natural that I found myself spending cycle rides to and from work being distracted by the animated streetscape and lunch times being occupied with wandering the local area with colleagues in search of places to eat and drink. Needless to say, it has not taken me long to decipher that what I am enjoying most about the local area is the predominantly independent community that exists here, both the people and businesses. The constant flow of vans unloading their goods and buses unloading their people makes for an energetic local urban environment helping the street front and internal elements blend together into a welcoming urban theatre.

As well as a local convenience shop that sells Old Jamaica Ginger Beer, owned by a shop keeper willing to discuss at length with me the flaws in the England batting line up, I have more importantly discovered an amazingly authentic Italian delicatessen. Nestled on the corner of the roundabout that joins Croham Road and Selsdon Road this small deli houses all the character and charm of Italy one can expect to find in the suburban plains of South Croydon, and on a daily basis one can expect to peer in through the windows of this cosy place and see the few tables that are available filled with smiling faces and empty plates.

Upon entering the deli one is immediately welcomed by the immense wooden detailing of the interior from the floor and furniture, to the trimming finishes that detail the endless shelving filled with all kinds of tempting Italian style treats, such as the panettones that are intriguingly hung from high flying wires. Yet with a floor space of what can only be around 4m by 4m one could easily be forgiven for passing by this place in order to find somewhere more spacious or convenient. The reality is that the atmosphere created from this small internal space is wonderfully familiar – you can comfortably take a seat and enjoy a cup of strong coffee whilst being watched over by the library-like shelving and imagine you are back home sitting in your favourite arm chair. The smells of roasting coffee and dressed olives are strong, and I am reminded of the rarity of effective small spaces like this one.

My experience with the architecture of this South Croydon Deli has left me wondering what other small spaces lie primarily undiscovered in our town, and I certainly know I will looking out a lot more closely for these types of spaces in the future. I guess it shows you should never judge a panettone by its box.

Tom Winter

Tom Winter

Practicing Architectural Assistant and fabricator of Dirty Croydon Love architecture and urban-design blog, having worked for Fantastic Norway Architekten in Oslo over the summer of 2011 and now recently graduated with a postgraduate in Architecture at London South Bank University. Stimulated in and intoxicated with South London with a keen interest in the potential of Resourceful Design and Urban Social Spaces that can be created through provocative yet sensitive contemporary urban architecture, with a strong belief that architecture can further enhance Croydon’s complex urban community. Also a passionate cricket player, dedicated book reader and enthusiastic CD music collector.

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  • Kake

    La Spezia is indeed a gem. I just found this excellent photo on Flickr — the proprietor among his goods.

  • Andrew Dickinson

    The building used to the home to an ‘olde worldy’ chemists and then was empty for years. It was brave of the owner (Giorgio) to start a deli there and I’m glad that he is still going.He is an active member of the business community in South Croydon and we are fortunate to have him.This reminds me that I really should go in there more.